Dirt bike riding takes enormous physical strength and endurance. Naturally, racing is designed to test your body, and you need to put in special effort to get your body ready for a hard enduro race. But even a relatively steady day on the trails takes its toll. Aerobic endurance is the foundation of good physical performance on the bike, and this comes from laying down hours in and out of the saddle in
Zone 2 training,
rather than simply whipping it for short sprints on the bike.
Check out our quick guide to building endurance with Zone 2 training, and get stuck in.
What is Zone 2 training?
Categorising training into zones based on heart rate and perceived exertion means that athletes can successfully balance their time between training for power and strength (through shorter sessions of higher exertion, sprint training), and training for endurance and aerobic performance (with longer, more paced workouts). You can figure out what Zone 2 training looks like for you using either a heart rate monitor, or by watching for signs of how hard you’re exerting yourself over a longer session.
Perceived Exertion Method
Typically, perceived exertion is described on a 0-10 scale, with zero as complete rest, and ten as maximal effort. Zone 2 training probably ranks around a five or six on the scale, as described below. You should be able to hold the effort for over an hour, but may start to break a sweat and even feel your heart rate elevate as the session goes on.
Heart Rate Method
If you’d rather monitor your training zone using your heart rate, you’ll need a heart rate monitor and a good idea of your typical resting and maximum heart rates. Debate continues about how to figure out your maximum heart rate. The only certain way is to have a medically supervised test, but you can choose a method that you are comfortable with (for example, using the formula of 220 minus your age, or simply by finding the highest number you’ve seen on your heart rate monitor if you use it regularly) for the purposes of calculation.
Figure out the heart rate range that corresponds to 65-75% of maximum, and aim for that during your Zone 2 training sessions.
Why bother with Zone 2 training?
Zone 2 training makes your body more efficient. The more you do, the fitter you become, meaning you can sustain the same heart rate or rate of perceived exertion for longer.
That means you can comfortably achieve longer training sessions to improve your riding skills. In races, better aerobic performance means your body can handle the physical trials without missing a beat, leaving your brain to figure out the challenges built into the course, rather than battling with fatigue. If you race hard enduro or regularly hit the trails for several days in a row, then this aerobic endurance is crucial.
How much Zone 2 training do I really need to do?
Typically endurance athletes should train in Zones 1 and 2 for up to 80-85% of their time. Motocross champion Ryan Dungey went on record describing his training regime as including 45 minutes for six days a week of Zone 2 training in the gym, with more Zone 2 work built into his regular four-hour sessions in the saddle.
Zone 2 training like this can be varied. In addition to hitting the gym, cycling, swimming, running and skiing are all just as good for building the base fitness you need to compete in the toughest of dirt bike events. The aerobic endurance you’re looking for takes years to build properly, so add some varied Zone 2 training into your plan now to make sure you’re at your best on the bike. Even though it might not be fast and furious, building your fitness this way might just give you the edge over the competition.
So what about you? How do you measure the training you do? Have you seen results from Zone 2 training? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to sign up here to get all the latest seasonal tips from the Rabaconda team.